Community… how do you make yours better?

Community… how do you make yours better?

Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community’

Community… what does that mean to you? Are you part of a community? Do you live and work in one? What does YOUR community look like?

I look to the farming community, one I am proud to be part of. Growing up in rural Wales being part of the community is just how it was, it’s the way of life.

I mean you would fart, and people would know about it, which can be annoying but actually looking back, it shows that people have your back. Yes, there is the gossip and scandal but when the chips are down, they are there for you.

The farming community comes together for the good times and the bad. The local show, YFC events, fundraisers and concerts; making sure livestock gets to the market when someone is ill, and the snow is cleared ensuring the funeral of a loved and respected member of the community can take place.

These people are not living in streets but miles apart, with fields, rivers and hills separating them but they are united by the sense of community, a field in August the village hall, the vestry. United by friendship, working together and coming together to celebrate the highs and the lows. A wave as you drive past each other, stooping for a quick chat, maybe there is more time or maybe the need is greater in these rural areas to take the time for community, because they depend on it, without it, it can be a lonely place.

Community is being part of where you live, it can be found on-line with your tribe, it is found on the allotment, Am Dram the community centre.

How do you better your community? Is it through the work you do? Have you given back to your industry or the community you live in?

Humans need humans and we see this more than ever at the moment. We need that interaction, and when that interaction doesn’t happen, we lose ourselves, our sense of purpose our direction.

By reaching out, from our isolation, from you heads, we can make a huge difference to those around us, it might be 1 person, it might be a 100, but by making a difference to others you will make a difference to yourself.

How are you going to do this? How are you bettering YOUR community?

Get the BEST from your business photoshoot!

Get the BEST from your business photoshoot!

People buy from people, so making sure you and your brand stand out and install trust in your potential customers is key.  But great photos don’t just happen! You can hire a great photographer but you and your staff need to be photo shoot ready, and My Rural Tribe has these tips to ensure you get the best photos for you and your business! 

My Rural Tribe


Stocks Farm apple orchard

1. Tell your staff!

You might think this is obvious but in truth, I have turned up at some businesses and the staff weren’t aware I was coming to do a photoshoot, or they knew I was coming buy didn’t realise THEY were having their picture taken!  This puts them on the back foot, can make some feel uncomfortable and they may not have done their hair, put on makeup on worn the best outfit!  

DO Tell your team a photographer is coming and that they WILL be having their photo taken!

2. What to wear

Are you a branded company or are YOU your company? What you wear is very important. 

a – Branded Clothing

Wear your branded logo clothing, is this a shirt, jumper, fleece, gillet? Should all your staff be in branded clothing?  Is the branded clothing suitable for the season? If it is a lovely summers day, wearing the branded fleece is not appropriate! This might be a good time to invest in some nice, seasonal, branded clothing such as a polo t-shirt, shirt or gillet.

DO wear your branded clothing. 

b -Fashions logos / ‘Humorous’ t-shirt’s

NO! Just No! Do not wear other branded logos or ‘humorous‘ or slogan t-shirts – not only are they off brand, they will date and age you.

DO Keep the clothing neutral or ‘on brand’.

c – Brand Colours

Have you a brand colour scheme head office wishes you to wear? Ensure your staff are wearing brand colours, if it is required for your company. If not, a ‘blank colour’ is great, white or blue shirt, something ‘neutral’ that enhances you! 

d – Colour scheme 

Does your brand have a colour theme or palette? You can bring these colour choices into your outfit. Love hot pink? Wear your clothes as a blank background and then inject the colours by wearing the shoes, the scarf, or have your pen and notebook in these colours?

DO wear colours that compliment you and that you are comfortable with. 

AVOID all black… it will potentially limit certain backdrops and locations – you might get lost…now we see you, now we don’t! 

You ARE your brand and you ARE representing the company your work for!

A photoshoot is an investment into you and your company, make the most of the time you have with the photographer! Getting your branding on-point is THE most important thing to do!

Make sure head office has sent you the right branded clothing or make sure you are representing yourself for your own company!

My Rural Tribe


                                                                           Tom – Lely Stafford Centre

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Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family. 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know! 

Get the BEST from your business photoshoot!

Farming dreams really do come true…

Ben and Julia with their daughter.

Farming… is one of those things…. You can’t explain it, it’s something you have always wanted to do and other jobs just never match up to it…. They’re good but they’re just not farming. My Rural Tribe met with Ben Jones, who’s whose dream of having his own farm has come true!

The farming ‘bug’ got Ben Jones as a small boy, when he would holiday with his grandparents, in North Wales on their small holding, chickens, pigs and sheep; the stuff of childhood dreams…? 

Ben got on his farming path by being accepted for a place at Harper Adams, but lack farming experience led to a year’s work experience on a dairy farm in Cheshire, where he got paid, bought a car…. The lure of money overrode the desire for a degree and he went back to Cardiff.  Time in other jobs were well spent but not farming, a move to Somerset with the police force and renting a cottage with land started his own small holding, keeping chickens for eggs and lambs & pigs for met boxes. 

Ben and his herd of Dexters

Meeting up with his old school friend, Julia, led to romance and a move back to the Vale of Glamorgan! Both with a love of animals and the countryside saw them starting to rent some land and get their own sheep.  The rented land increased, but was all over the area, so a lot of driving to feed and check livestock who lambed outside. A desire to have cattle led to them buying a herd of 12 Dexters; not the first choice for everyone but this hardy small breed suited them perfectly, small, low soil impact, and most importantly they can be out-wintered as damage is minimal, plus in the 6 years they have only seen 1 calve.  The Dexters are only grass fed, with about 50 bales of silage over the winter. 

Hillside Boxed beef came as a natural progression to the lamb boxes they were already doing, as 5 of the herd were cull cows, Ben took 3 to Raglan market, it was British Blue day… as you can imagine the Dexters were lost and the price received was very low.  Something else needed to happen for the remaining 2 cows, they realised they could make more through the meat boxes.  Ben found a small family owned abattoir and butchery in Gloucestershire, who were and still are excellent, a calm environment for the cows to go through, hung for 21 days, butchered to traditional and specialist cuts, packed and labelled, means that a viable supply chain has been sourced and supported.  

The Dexter herd, they calve really easily and quickly!

The boxed beef has gone from strength to strength with a loyal following and a waiting list, 2 cattle go every month, and people can buy a specialist box with cuts of their choice, or have a Lucky Dip, which means all the meat gets used, and everyone is happy.

Spring 2019 saw the start of Ben and Julia’s dream of having their own farm, a National Trust tenancy had come up for 134 acres near Abergavenny, and they had won the tenancy.  

The National Trust have a vision for their farms, to create havens for wildlife, increase species diversity and farm in a low input way which is in tune with the environment.  This suited Ben as he had been farming low-input and his livestock have been only been pasture fed. 

Ben with his daughter and Dexter cow

The Trust have been very supportive to Ben, encouraging Performance Recording, investing in a new infrastructure and providing volunteers who have carried out wildlife and bird surveys on the farm. 

The farm is 134 acres of permanent grazing, parkland, wetlands and arable rotations which will be fallow, rye grass, herbal ley and spring barley, the livestock grazing the rotation will improve the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertiliser and the Trust want to encourage arable weeds such as poppies back onto the farm, which will benefit insects and birds. 

Dexter Cow and Calf
The stability of the 10-year tenancy means they can invest in the farm, the stock, expanding the herd and increasing beef box sales, add value to the farm experience and offer farm holidays.  This has been a great story of hard work and determination and will be an even better one to follow! 

Farming… it just gets into you…  and becomes your life. 

Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family.

Please check out my Podcasts, asking the question ‘What makes a farmer’…. 

Check out my Rural Photography , or follow me on Instagram @my_rural_tribe to keep up to date with my walks and thoughts! 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know! 

Do we really care about where our food comes from, how it was raised and produced?

Do we really care about where our food comes from, how it was raised and produced?

This week I was interviewed for a media scholarship with Jeremy Hayes BBC Editor… Wow WEE! My scenario was based on what Tim Leunig had said the week before – how the UK should import in all its food…. Say what?! 

Of course, I went in with explaining that Singapore is an island city and only 559km sq in size, so a fraction of the UK… was Mr Leunig getting confused that there is no Britain outside of London?! 

The UK agriculture and food industry only equates to 1% GDP, with 1.5% of the workforce looking after 69% of the land. 1.5% of the population looks after 69% of the land… so few are doing this… surely THIS is to be celebrated, that so few do much for the many of us… why are we not praising this, instead of trying to take away the foundations of this country?

The UK is agriculture, it is what our landscape has been created by, the fields, the hedges, the stone walls, the buildings, the livestock grazing, fields of crops. We love to drive through it… unless you a sulky teenager who quite frankly hates going anywhere with the family, and even less so if it involves the phrase ‘look at the view’, we love to holiday in it, walk in it, visit it, and some a lucky enough to work in it. 

What would our beautiful country, and yes, it is beautiful, we have glorious seasons and there is nowhere better to be on a sunny day, be without farmers? Who would manage the land, who would grow our food?

The world is vulnerable… I think we can all feel it, climate change or something is happening, corona virus has many in fear and yet in the UK our self-sufficiency has dropped to 60% from a previous 80%… should we not be trying to reverse this, to be as self-sufficient as we can be? Import all our food he said… in a time when we should be reducing travel, reducing the transport of goods, in a bid to save our plant. Instead our farmers are under attack, do some people not realise that if the farmer is gone so is our food, without food we die. Our supermarkets hold 4 meals…. If U boats suddenly returned to our seas our bellies would soon be hungry. 

Balance IS needed, the land needs protecting, but it also needs protecting from urbanisation, industry and developed… progress people! Progress! But is it? Where I live, 4000 houses are to be built, on land that grew crops, where a blue bell wood thrives and a barn owl makes her morning swoop across the fields…. To lose these is not progress in my eyes. 

But do we REALLY care or can those will money only care when it comes it buying British food, because of the high welfare and produce standards, British grown produce is more expensive than the cheaper imports. Why are they cheaper? Higher stock numbers, lower welfare standards, greater use of chemicals and antibiotics, lower labour costs, less red tape? All these add up. But at the end of the day, do we really care or do we just want cheap food? 

There is a real disconnect about food, it has become a throw away commodity, 3 for 2, ‘fast food’, ready meals, Best Before dates, Use By dates, gone are the days when most of our wages went on food, where nothing was wasted, the fridge was not stuffed, and we were not hungry or on a constant diet… 

Respect is needed for the food we eat, this life force, food should not be a throw away commodity, it is sacred, it is to be respected, it is to be eaten and savoured.

But do we really care? I hope we do, because if we don’t we will be vulnerable and we will lose the few who do so much for us. 

Cultivate your land, cultivate yourself….

Cultivate your land, cultivate yourself….

Last week My Rural Tribe was privileged to photograph Cultivate 2020 – The Rural Growth Summit, which took place at Heaton House Farm, an ex-dairy farm turned award winning wedding & conference venue.

Culitvate is not your usual farming conference, no industry specific talks, no science and very limited tweed! Cultivate was setting a new agenda, a new type of agricultural conference, bringing the city to the countryside, and with it – SO MUCH FRICKING INSPIRATION!

Cultivate – The Rural Growth Summit

The venue looked amazing, were we in Manchester or rural Macclesfield? The stage set the tone for the event, this was a professional event, aimed at the farming community.

An early start for breakfast and networking…. Breakfast was cooked by Stable Yard Catering ,using local produce, the Staffordshire Oat cakes wrapped around cheese and bacon, were amazing!  This was networking at its best… but people stuck with those they knew….this wouldn’t last long. 

Only 4 speakers… at a paid for conference, with no industry specific talks, from 8am – 5pm…… huh?!

Malcolm Smith – Mind Games Management

The room came alive..

Malcolm Smith was amazing, the FCUKS were flying around but boy the room was buzzing with energy, the audience were challenged, they were engaged, there was laughter, conversation, and just A LOT of WOW! I was totally blown away, how someone can be so engaging, so inspiring! Notes were being written, quotes photographed, learning was taking place….. 

A break… from a quiet breakfast to an increase in volume, conversations were happening, people were talking, loudly, the laughter was carrying on…. The buzz….. to see and hear it… WOW

Networking and conversation!
Brad Waldron – Intelligent Inspiration

The names Bond, James Bond…

Brad Waldron – was exceptional.  From where I stand behind the lens, you see a different view… I must admit, I was worried, there wasn’t the laughter, where was the energy?…. But then BOOM! There is was… the room were listening, intently listening, engaged and focused.  The audience, were not allowed to relax in their chairs, they are up, doing tasks, engaging with each other, there was fear on some faces – no one wanted to the chairman, laughter was had – they all wanted the Ace, and wrist arm wrestling…. you can never get some sights out of your head! James Bond, the ultimate role model, gets in, gets the job done, gets home and still makes his lady feel special, all while being an Ace.

More energy, you could feel it, you could see it… people were sitting taller, engaging with others on the table… wow… just WOW. 

Ross McMahon

Broaden yourself, travel and see what people want..

Ross McMahon…  bought a Heinz factory for a £1 and started producing – Kendalmil baby formula. Ross, originally from Ireland and having worked within the food processing industry for years, was epic…. Quietly spoken, not sticking to script, and so very interesting… when they say surround yourself by influential people, he did this from a young age, you surely cant’ go wrong having Barry McGuigan as our best friend!  

Ross became a Twitter sensation in China for flaunting his tins of baby formula, a market who have a huge appetite for the stuff! Insightful, inspiring, thought provoking… there are markets out there for British meat and dairy, countries who hold our produce in high esteem, because they know it comes with such high standards, of welfare and production.

The time is now, to step away from the farm and to look in other directions to find a new way for your produce. Ross spoke of how travel is invaluable, to learn from others, to attend food trade fairs, to find out what the next ‘trends’ will be and to meet your consumer.

Jane Lane – Tebay Services

A family journey, full of passion and grace..

Jane Lane, of Tebay Services, surely the best services EVER?! Gave the most beautiful, graceful and passionate talk, about the ‘Why’ behind the services. Started by her father, they took advantage of the M6 going north, cutting through their land and bringing the tourist with them.  

Community is at the heart of all they do, the community that work for them and the community of local producers that provide, from the bread, the sausage rolls and the beautiful gifts.  The farm is still very much part of the Tebay story with all their own beef and lamb being sold through the Tebay shops.  A story of thinking outside the box, looking towards opportunities, and how to influence and work with your community.  

Lives will be changed..

This day will have changed the lives of the people in the room, they will have be inspired, they may have gone away with realisations, the light bulb moment, or they may have gone away just thinking what a great day they had… BUT in the coming days, and weeks, they will remember something that was said, their actions, language and energy  may change, and this will have affects not only on them, but all those around them.

Who thought talks of ‘chunking’, telling your neighbour how great you area, James Bond and a deck of cards could be so powerful?!  To be inspired by other farmers who have made a massive impact on their communities, a community they created or one they grew up in? 

But what is it all about? Energy! Engagement! Purpose! Your Why! and Your Community… 

For most of the year they will have cultivated their business, the land, the livestock, but for this one day, they cultivated themselves, their thoughts, their actions, the land has been prepared and from that great things will grow.

I can’t wait for Cultivate 2021…. Can you?!

Team Cultivate! Well done!

Step away from the farm….

Step away from the farm….

Last week My Rural Tribe had the pleasure of doing the conference photography for the British Cattle Breeders Club Conference. It was so great to be at this 3 day conference and workshops, to meet old friends, make new friends, and to be inspired by fantastic informative talks from industry and hear from farmers, who have A LOT of passion for what they are doing! 

It got me thinking though, what makes people attend a Conference and what are the benefits of attending a conference? Do those that attend conferences like this, broaden thier horizons more than those that don’t?

There was a wide mix of people in attendance, students, farmers, vets, industry and organisations, who all got involved on the first day, putting views across.  The beauty of a good workshop means that everyone gets a go, to input, and ultimately feedback on thier thoughts, which is invaluable for those representing the industry. 


Conversation and being able to voice your opinion is so important, to be given the time to speak, and more importantly, the time to think, is vital.  Often we can get stuck in routine, be it on the farm or in the office, which can lead to us becoming narrow in our minds, because we have not had the stimulation from others, face to face, to share those views, our thoughts and opinions. To be heard has become a luxury… 

Be brave… ask the question… 

Bringing industry experts together in one place, is a fantastic opportunity, you get to hear about research that is  being carried out, how this will influence your farm business, learn about new innovations and how to make positive, considerered decisions which will help your business become sustainable. I still think one of the bravest things to do at these things, is to put your hand up and ask the question… to you it may seem simple or irrelevant, to many it is what they wish they’d asked.  When I used to teach I would encourage questions, often asking the most basic ones myself… to show that we all have questions and that we can all ask them.  Only when we ask can we find the answer, only then we can make the informed decision. 

Be inspired….

I still think one of the best ways to learn and be inspired is from those that are like you, farmers, who have made changes, who have stepped away from something that wasn’t working, for them, and took a risk, took a leap of faith…. and made something new! I think quite often we look at those people and think they are different from us… that we could never do what they have done, but here is the thing.. they are just people, like us, but they made it happen, to better themselves, thier business and to make something that is sustainable. You could feel the passion that these speakers had for their farms and businesses, they were inspiring.  

Talking to other farmers who had attended the conference, they were passionate about thier business, they were keen to learn about the science behind things, the WHY, the reasons it works, why it is needed, they were taking on the knowledge, they were being sponges, soaking it all in.  It doesn’t mean they will implement all they heard, but now they can take it back to the farm and think about it, think about what else is there, think about the conversations they had, restart conversations with people they met. 

By stepping away from the farm, be it to attend a sponsored on farm event, or to pay to attend a Conference, is only ever a good thing.  Horizons will be broadened, conversations will inspire, opportunities will happen. 

I came away feeling totally inspired by all I heard and from those I met.  In this time of social media, it reminded me that the best conversations happen in person, that people are where it is at, not via the socials, yes we get the insight, but so much gets lost, so much negaitivty for the livestock industry.  This Conference and the people in it, reminded me what a great industry we have, what great people those involved in it are, and that we are bloody fantastic! 

Stop scrolling, put the phone down, and get yourself off farm…. get involved, get talking, be heard, be inspired, be outstanding! 

Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family. 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know! 

Check out my Rural Photography , or follow me on Instagram @my_rural_tribe to keep up to date with my walks and thoughts! 

She who dares…..farms…

Bryony with her sheep dog.

Bryony is a farmer… 

But once she just a farmer’s daughter, 4 years ago a sudden illness struck her Dad and the realisation, that our parents are not immortal, meant that this daughter became the farmer.  

Llanthony, 250 acres and 600 ewes, sits in the Brecon Beacons bordering England along Offas Dyke. The family of 6 have lived here for 40 years, it is place called home, a place full of heart and community. It is definitely a place to lay your hat. 

It is unique, in that it lies within the ruin of Llanthony Abbey, where you will find 2 pubs, a campsite, bunk house and private residences! A community still thrives here, swelling in holidays and high days, but still a community. 

Llanthony Abbey
Llanthony Abbey

Farm life….

To grow up on a farm is such a privilege, a childhood of freedom, roaming and working, add to that a trekking business, this would have been the stuff of childhood dreams! The 4 siblings were schooled locally until secondary, when they won scholarships to Christ’s Hospital, Horsham – a place where you learnt to work hard until all the work was done and only then the fun could begin.  This was the same at home, but the work was the horses and the fun was the local pub

shepherdess with her 4x4 with the llanthony valley behind.
The valley – a place called Home

From the heart….

After studying Zoology, Bryony came home for a year of deciding what next and to run the trekking Centre. However the lure of London and the desire to see if the streets were really paved with gold, took Bryony off to the big City, a placed she loved whilst she was there, working as PA to the Head of the CEO office of the Standard Chartered Bank.  A successful career was ahead of her, PA’s could go wherever their bosses went, wherever in the world.  However, a weekend home, a friend’s party and falling in love with Steve, meant Bryony followed her heart back to Wales.

A job with A-Z Expeditions saw her become an outdoor instructor, a job she loved, then after her babies a job in the Expedition office, which suited her love of the outdoors and  her family life.

sheep grazing on the mountain.

Llanthony means so much to all the family, and everyone wanted it to stay in the family, for the future generations. With 4 siblings, 1 working away and 2 with other careers, Bryony, who was at cross road, put her hand up – she would come back to farm Llanthony and take over the running from her Dad.

Being handed the reins…

Bryony is lucky, she feels blessed and honoured that her dad has handed over the reins of running the farm, is letting her make her own mark but is there to offer advice.  Being the daughter is very different from being the farmer, the one in charge, not just the one being given jobs to do.  Decisions are for her to make, with support, and Dad is always on hand to get lambs to market.

old blue tractor on the farm yard

Knowledge is power….

Bryony has taken advantage of all the courses, training, clinics and surgeries available to her through organisations such as Farming Connect.  She’s received Young Person In Agriculture grant, which she will use to fence off the mountain and buy a new handling system, she has a Management Exchange Grant, which is using to try out early lambing with 3 Performance Recorded Innovis rams, which should bring in a higher return for early lambs and getting culled ewes off farm sooner. 

She has a Farming Connect Mentor – Ben Anthony, who’s wisdom of ‘Pick 1 field as a time to improve… it will become easier as half the boundaries will have already been improved”! This has given her a plan, and reduced the stress. 

The day before I met her, she had been on a Soil Surgery, learning about getting the basics of soil pH, and benefits of P & K for the soil and how to implement them.

Llanthony mountain
Knowledge to learn from the past and the research for the future of these lands

Motivation is what you need…

Getting off the farm, attending learning days, going to market and meeting like-minded people is the motivation that Bryony needs, especially on those days that there is little to be had! A phone book that is getting fuller and a range of people to ask for advice and help or just a chat has been key for her new career. Never one to shy away from hard work, running the farm has given her a new sense of motivation and a stronger work ethic, as this time it is for her and her family, to get it right.  Where obstacles lay, such as dagging, she came up with a solution, which will become even easier with the new handling system. 

Just do it!

You’ve got to throw yourself into everything! Take advantage of all the learning and new experiences out there, then bring back these new skills and ideas to the farm. Meet new people, take part in challenges, get out the comfort zone.

Did I say I met Bryony whilst carrying a cow to the top of Snowdon….. (BG – I LOVED this trip!x)

She who Dares… most definitely farms! 

She who dares farms. Shepherdess looking over her farm.
NFU She Who Dares Farms
Are we born lucky…?

Are we born lucky…?

Like a proud parent…

Meeting up with an successful ex-student, gives me the feeling, of what it must be like to be a proud parent, to think that you may have had, even the smallest part in who they have become, be it through teaching, or even just a kind word when they were feeling down.  Because that’s the thing, we are always having an impact on others, if we know it or not. 

 Tom, is now 28 with a wife and 1 year old son – Archie. He has built up his own flock, tenanted a farm and now is shepherd for the Overbury Estate.  

 Tom himself has said that he has been lucky, but I think we make our own luckthrough being a decent human being, kind and considerate, but also by working hard and saying yes to opportunities.  

 Tom comes from a family of farmers, his parents and grandparents were farmers and this was passed onto him, ‘farming is in your blood, it is quite hard to explain, it’s just there’.  Toms grandfather installed the love of sheep, he would spend lambings and the summer holidays helping on the farm and his grandfather would give him a black ‘pet lamb’ every year – these started his first flock! 

The farmer is a person with many attributes… 

Tom left school at 16, he couldn’t wait to get out to work.  On his gap year he went a helped a local shepherd, it was here the farmer told him he was ‘no good’ but instead of letting this knock his confidence, he has used these words to prove that farmer wrong – which he has done!  Tom has spent time working on many farms, gaining valuable experience and knowledge, from lambing 5000 sheep in 4 weeks in Cumbria, to shearing in New Zealand, to going back to Coventry, where he worked with Adrian Hall, someone who had a big impact on him, someone who started on Council Farm and eventually bought his own.  It was here that Tom bought and trained his first sheep dog, with the expert help of Adrian, a renowned dog trainer himself.  

 ‘We need to change the public perception that farming is about brawn over brain – but those making the money are using their brains’. 

 To be a farmer means you have to be a so many things; be a balanced person, smart, adaptable, take on a job, be physically strong, mentally tough, be able to ride over the negative and be positive when things do go wrong.  Willingness to learn from othersis vital, to be able to bring something new back to the farm, is invaluable. 

Look for opportunties…

Tom & Holly knew they wanted to have their own farm and took a risk and applied for an 89 acre Staffordshire Council Farm;  they were awarded a 10-year tenancy.  The 150 flock he had built up on rented land were moved to Staffordshire and this grew to 400. 

However Staffordshire Council decided to sell off 16 farms, Tom was offered compensation, which he took and during this time Holly saw the job at Overbury Estate, and within days of receiving his CV Tom was down in Worcestershire for an interview, they moved onto the estate in July.

Taking it back to basics…

This is great opportunity for Tom to make his mark on the estate, to work alongside farms manager, Jake (Nuffield Scholar) who has been following rejuvenation farming practices, with the backing of the estate board, using old techniques with modern kit! Mixing wheat varieties to combat resistances, under-sowing barley with red clovers, to reduce field passes and to create new 3-year lay rotations, fixing nitrogen and for grazing the sheep. Yields are good and wildlife numbers are increasing around the estate.

The sheep play a part in the arable management, to graze SSSI grasslands, and to follow the rotations around the farm.  This is a new way of farming for Tom, but one he is excited about. He is tasked with improving scanning & lambing %, so he is bringing in Mule ewes and Texel X Charolais rams.

Grass is not suitable for rotational grazing, its growth is slow, so sheep are given the field, in the winter they are grazed on ‘green fields’ of vetch and rye or oats and lambs graze turnips.  There is quite a lot of stress on the grass as lambs, born in April, are not sold until the following spring.  Soil and water samples have been sent away, to find out which minerals are lacking and then a specialised mineral bucket will be devised for the ewes and lambs.  Lambing outside has its own issues, mainly with supplementary feeding, the ewes run to the feed, Tom is thinking a feed block with reduce this happening. Tom aims to get back to basics – to get fit and healthy ewes that produce a fit and healthy lamb! Keeping good nutrition in-front of them will fight off any illness or disease and increase immunity. Routine vaccinations and the re-introduction of FootVax, along with Fecpak worm count, and automated weighing mean there is a lot of data to be used for improving the stock and also to present to the board. 

Team work makes the dream work…

and Tom has a great team of dogs, who are settling in to the new system, of moving sheep along tracks aside open arable fields, to fields 2 miles from each other! They do have their work cut out, but with the loyalty I saw – they all take it in their stride. 

 Does luck find us or do we make it?  Whereas one person would have taken the words ‘You are no good’ and let them floor them, Tom has used them to make sure he IS good, and that he IS making his own luck! 

Do you see a challenge as a negative or do you see it as an opportunity? An opportunity to make changes, to improve, to push you out of the comfort zone, to grow?

Check out my Rural Photography , or follow me on Instagram @my_rural_tribe to keep up to date with my walks and thoughts! 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know! 

Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family. 

Mart Life

Mart Life

farmers at llanybydder livestock market selling sheep my rural tribe photography
Farmers at Llanybydder Livestock Mart

The livestock market or ‘The Mart’ is a place I am not familar with.  Even though Dad is a sheep farmer it isn’t a place I have frequented, mainly due to either being at school, uni or quite frankly, not finding the early morning start appealing! But a photographic assignment took me to Llanybydder and Tregaron, on two wet cold days.  The Mart may have been chilly, but the welcome was warm.

A smile works wonders…..

I was slightly nervous about going along, no one knew me, I would have cameras, they might be wary of me, especially in light of recent anti farming views.  But I needn’t have worried.

The key though is to smile, say hello to everyone, engage in conversation, ask them about themselves and tell them who your dad, or mum is! Boom! They relax, they smile, they ask how your parents are, and all is good! They start to relax in-front of the camera, joke with those that don’t know who I am, that I am there to check tyre tread, or make their friend look at the camera!

Thank goodness for Gwyneth… ‘do you know who this is’… she would say as she presented me to a farmer, for which I would be greeted with a blank stare – Bills daughter! A smile, a relax…. Oh so where do you live?  What are you doing?  How is Bill? Is he here

A place of community…. 

The Mart is not just a place to sell sheep or cattle, it is a place for farmers to come together, a place to meet, once a week, or once a month, yes to sell, but for much more than that.

Imagine that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, you are surrounded by green fields, amazing landscapes, your nearest neighbour is a mile away, your farm is at the end of the track and the only person you might see in your working hours is the postman.  For many of us, we dream of such idyll, but imagine doing that everyday, with the added struggle of weather, unforeseen circumstances, ill livestock, stresses of bureaucrats… and then see how we feel about it.  THIS is why the mart is so important to the farmer.  It gets them off the farm, it gets them to others, it gets them to their friends.

Friendship is strong in rural areas, it has to be.  You have to be there for each other, you have to look out for each other, you have to help each other.  You have to come together as a community, and it is powerful.

The Mart is place to take your time.  You can’t rush livestock, they need to be kept calm.  Shouting and hollering will only upset them.  So it is a place of routine, and a place to take your time, to have a cuppa, to eat a bacon sandwich and to chat, to lean against the pen or to take a sit down.  The sale starts at 11 and no sooner.


A place of men…

The Mart is a place for the men.  A few women doing paperwork, the ladies in the café and a few wives and girlfriends.  But this is the place for men.  This is a place they bring their livestock, it is a place they can stand, not looking at each other, talking about livestock, costs, the weather and hopefully, eventually, themselves.  But if not, it is a place they have come, not to feel alone, for a morning, they will feel part of a community, part of something greater than them.  And if they have done a good job they will go home with some gossip for the wife!

I looked around the Marts, farmers unloading livestock, men with jobs to do, unspoken, all knowing where to be and what to do, which gates to open, where to stand out the way and I smiled. I was in awe. In awe that on this cold wet day, there was friendship, there were smiles, there was laughter… a lot of laughter.  Me being there might have added some interest, some banter, some jesting, but for that I am happy.  Because being at these Marts made me happy.  It made me want to be part of that community, and certainly made me want to go back and hear their stories.

For the sake of out rural farming communities’ places like these need to be preserved, their place in the community is vital to the survival of that community.

Check out my Rural Photography , or follow me on Instagram @my_rural_tribe to keep up to date with my walks and thoughts! 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know!

Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family. 

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